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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Perfect Cauliflower Gratin

This is sooooo simple, does not use a lot of ingredients, and is unbelievably yummy.  I have made this a few times since last summer and it's been a hit each time but I think I reached perfection with it the other night.  Buy yourself a head of cauli next time you're in the store, make sure you have some tangy cheese on hand, and if you have Panko-style bread crumbs in your pantry, more's the better.

I don't have a photo of the finished product because we ate it all up so fast that I didn't get a chance to snap a pic.  [Well, actually, to be honest, I just didn't plan ahead very well.  Maybe I'll get a photo next time I make this and insert it later.]

Cauliflower Gratin
adapted from Ina Garten's recipe found here
Note -- I have adjusted the amounts from Ina's original recipe because the first couple of times I made this it was too saucy for our taste.  This recipe as I've written it here will make 3-4 servings as a side dish.

You'll need:
  • 1 head of (organic) cauliflower -- mine was between 2 and 3 pounds I think; I tried to weigh it but my scale was not being very helpful.  Here's a pic; maybe you can buy this kind in your store.
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 T butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 T flour
  • 1 c hot milk (heat in microwave for a minute)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper (freshly ground is good)
  • 1/8 ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 c grated hard tangy cheese...  I used some Jarlsberg that I had leftover from another recipe and it was yum.  Swiss would probably work.  I imagine a sharp white cheddar would be nice too.  Original recipe calls for Gruyere...  I don't think I've ever bought that in my life.  :-)
  • 1/4 c + 1 T grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 c bread crumbs -- Panko are best if you have 'em!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut up the cauliflower into large florets.  Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add cauliflower -- cook for 5 mins or so, until the florets are tender but still firm -- don't overcook.  Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 1 T butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.  (Heat the milk now.)  Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (if you have one) for a 2 minutes.  Add the hot milk slowly to the butter/flour mixture and whisk together until it comes to a boil.   Boil and whisk constantly for 1 minute, until the mixture thickens slightly.  Remove from heat and add the 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper, nutmeg, the 1/2 c grated cheese, and 1/4 c grated Parmesan.  Stir until the sauce is smooth.  (Resist sticking a spoon in and eating it all up.)

Pour 1/2 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8" square or round baking dish (I used a glass quiche dish).  Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the remaining 1/2 of the sauce over the top of the cauliflower.  Combine the bread crumbs with the 1 T grated Parmesan and sprinkle over the top.  Melt the remaining 1 T butter (in the microwave) and drizzle over the gratin.  Bake for 20 minutes or so until heated through and the top is lightly browned -- you could move the dish up to the top rack and turn on the broiler for a minute or so if you think the gratin has cooked long enough and just needs browning.

The Panko bread crumbs really added a lovely crunch -- I think they are superior in this dish to regular bread crumbs.  Just sayin'.

Please make and enjoy this IMMEDIATELY.  You will never look at cauliflower the same again.